WWII photo tucked away for decades leads to recognition of Tuskegee Airman

Black History Month

CHESAPEAKE, Va. (WAVY)- A photo tucked away in a Chesapeake man’s drawer finally helped him get recognition 70 years after serving in the military.

Thomas W. Newton joined the U.S. Air Force when he was 18 years old at the end of World War II. He says he volunteered to be a plane mechanic, but was sent to clerk typing school.

Newton was sent to Lockbourne Air Force Base in Ohio, worked on the supply line, and had great memories with other service members.

“They’d play tricks and go out to the scrap heap, bring it and say ‘Hey, Newton! I need this.’ Then I’d be looking at everything in the [supply] book. They got a good laugh out of it,” he said.

Newton and those who worked alongside him ended up taking a picture that he’s kept for years.

“After the photo, I went up a month later and went to the photographers. I said ‘You took our picture but we never saw it,'” he said.

There were only two photos, according to Newton, and the photographers gave him one.

He didn’t think anything of it until his son was asking him about his military service. So, he showed him.

“He said ‘Dad! You deserve recognition for this. That’s the 99th Fighter Squadron. That’s what you saw in Red Tails. We are going to get you recognition,'” Newton said.

And, he did get recognition. Newton was inducted as a documented original Tuskegee Airman into the Hampton Roads chapter of Tuskegee Airmen back in November. The 99th Fighter Squadron saw action in the Europe before returning to Lockbourne Air Force Base.

“It feels good to be recognized. I never sought the recognition, but I’m recognized now,” he said.

And going to typing school paid off in the end for Newton. He worked for the United States Postal Service in his home state of New York for more than 30 years, eventually becoming a manager at one of the offices.

Newton says he’s grateful to his son for helping him to achieve his induction, and will always cherish being a member of the group.

“They give you a red jacket that symbolizes you’re a part of a unique group and to make sure you always remember when you have this jacket, you are unique and are among many others who will come before you and some will come after,” he said. “Being around those guys and hearing their experience, it’s a learning time for me. It’s also a great honor to say I am a documented original Tuskegee Airman. That is a great honor and I will always remember that.”

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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